The deck on the cabana that Honey and I stay in is large. Not huge, but big enough to have four chairs and a couple of tables and enough room not to feel crowded. It also holds three or four dogs every morning when I get up. Honey likes to call our cabana deck, the ‘doggy day-care’.
The dog dynamic at The Playa has been the same for all the years I have been coming here but that changed last summer when Capitan, the Alpha, passed away. Adding to the changes, Tricon whom I would deem the Beta, had been hit by a car the year before and had sustained an injury to one of his rear legs that left him with a permanent 3-legged gate. To add insult to injury, half his tail had needed to be amputated and since the vet already had a knife out… he was neutered.
Now there are new dogs, lots and lots of new dogs. On any given night there are eight of them. Not all of them belong here, but with the Alpha gone, there is no way to control them coming down to the restaurant. I always assumed that Tricon would step into the role of Alpha but it appears that once a Beta, always a Beta.
Half the dogs belong here. Tricon and three puppies, Mancha, Hatcha and one that has very large ears that stand up straight like a rabbit, we have dubbed her Radar. They are cute dogs but are puppies, and have no understanding of the proper etiquette that is expected of them. They play under the tables where people are eating and must be shooed away constantly. They leave but before you know it, they have played there way back. They’re puppies, it’s what they do!
Without an Alpha to teach them, they are left to their own devices and make decisions based solely on their moods. The staff at The Playa do not have the time, nor the inclination, to do any serious training. Dogs in this country are for the most part fed daily, and left to wander after that. Which is why even though there should only be four dogs here, there are eight.
Coco, is a stray that has been adopted by one of the neighbours. She put a collar on the dog, left food with the guard that watches her home, and promptly left the country. When she comes back, she will cuddle and love the dog, who will return the affection and will stay by her side until she hops back on the plane, abandoning the dog and the responsibility of its care. Coco shows up at The Playa late in the afternoon and stays until the food disappears.
Papo, one of the night guards, has a male that spends the night and sometimes the day. This is dependant on whether he is distracted when Papo leaves The Playa in the morning. It seems that no one that owns a dog worries about where it is or what it is doing. Mostly the dog follows him home, but some days he spends the day romping the beach and looking for stray scraps.
The final two that hang around The Playa, are the ‘Brindle’ brothers, or sisters. I haven’t taken the time to check and don’t plan to. These two are feral dogs, one-hundred percent strays, that wander from one end of the beach to the other. The have a very lean look and tiger striping. They are thin, very thin, and have the look that they might expire at any moment. One is a crier, not whimpers but a loud rather annoying “wooo, wooo, wooo,” sound. I think it is one of its tricks to get an extra table scrap or two. They always arrive at the dinner hour.
In the evenings they are a pack. They are not aggressive in nature, but a bunch of friendly tail wagging mutts. They all play with one another save Tricon, who has no time for young-dog antics. He does what he has always done. He will lie quietly beside your chair while you eat and makes very little attempt to beg for scraps until he sees that you have finished eating, then sits up and gives you that sad eyed look that asks, “got anything for me?” This was the routine when Capitan was alive, well mannered and well behaved, something that all the others have yet to pick up on.
Without an Alpha to lead the way and teach the lessons of good-manners and proper dog etiquette, it will take a few years for the puppies to learn the ways of The Playa. The one thing they seem to have all learned immediately, is that they need to bark at strangers. Those that pass through The Playa compound in the darkness as a warning to the night guards, and that they are to sleep on the cabana decks and watch over the guests while they sleep.
So, every morning Honey and I must weave our way through an array of dogs to get to our seats and have our morning coffee. But unlike at meal time, the dogs pay us no heed when we rise. We are not strangers to them but guests whom they feel belong here, just like they do.